“Oh my child, the gods have vindicated us!” She pulled the princess into her arms and gave her a warm a hug.
The elders shook hands with Chinedum and thanked him for saving the life of their princess and moon virgin.
“You have done well…” The Queen smiled at Chinedum after releasing her daughter.
“Thank you my Queen,” he bowed.
“What is your name stranger and where do you come from?” She ran her eyes over the man. The Queen found him very attractive; attractive enough for her Uli. She loved the fierceness of his dark eyes. He reminded her of her late husband, who had never showed fear even in the face of defeat.
Chinedum could feel the woman’s eyes all over him but in a good way. Naturally, there was an aura about him which caused many people to be drawn towards him. It was time to paint a profile which didn’t exist.
“You may call me Ezechi, I come from the land of Izi. I was travelling back to my hometown when I heard these maidens screaming for help.”
His story was plausible because Izi was the next land after Amabara.
“You are one of us then…come, let me show you to the King.” The Queen took his hands and led him away.
Uli couldn’t help but notice his firm legs; those were legs of a man who knew the names of sands and the beats of the forest. Those legs belonged to a man who understood the language of peace and the voices of war.
“It seems your mother has fallen in love with my master…” Adaora teased.
Uli swallowed and quickly pulled her eyes away from Chinedum’s backside.
“ I never knew the moon virgin had such a sharp tongue.” Uli scoffed.
The friends were still talking about Chinedum, when one of Uli’s maids stopped by.
“My princess, the woman has awoken.”
“What woman?” Uli wondered.
The maid, Nkolika, carefully explained that the body that had been found at the stream turned out to be female. At first, the Queen had wanted nothing doing with that problem, but when the woman sneezed and returned to life, the Queen decided to keep her for questioning.
“The gods be praised! Can she talk? Does she remember anything?” Uli inquired.
“Yes, she requested for some water. Her lips are badly cracked and she suffers from a terrible cut.”
Adaora pulled in a deep breath as she thought of the Ikele leaves in her possession. If this woman turned out to be a good person who had been attacked, she would help her. But if her spirit kicked against it, she wouldn’t.
“Can we see her?” Adaora asked.
“Yes we can.” Uli nodded.
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The woman had been placed in an empty hut in the cluster of huts which belonged to the servants. Outside her room, two guards had been placed to keep watch. As the moon virgin and the princess neared the room, they heard sobs. The guards quickly moved to give the maidens way. With a swift push by the princess, the door flew wide open.
It was Adaora that spoke the woman’s name first.
Chiemelie’s eyes were on the dagger next to him. He could feel the energy that rose from the object. It was a majestic piece and he was pleased to have it by his side. Due to the latest happening in the kingdom, he couldn’t go ahead with his plans. The sacrifice of the moon virgin was to be carried out after the oath taking, but things were on pause until the land was cleansed.
“Tell me oracle of the gods, is there no way we can move on with the oath-taking? It’s not like the woman in question is dead. How does her presence at the stream defile that water body?” He asked.
Igwekala sat by the foot of the throne. He was a white garment which was studded with pieces of glazing stones and cowries. His legs were crossed as he stared at the reddish Kolanuts before him.
“Do you doubt the ways of the gods? They are supreme…” He replied the King after consulting with the spirits in operation.
“I just can’t wait to wield this knife. I will cut through Ikemba’s cursed belly. I will feed his bones to the dogs and his flesh to the vultures. I will bring death to all those who stand against me.”
“You must be patient. All our dreams shall manifest at the right time.” The oracle encouraged.
Chiemelie watched as the chiefs-in-council began to leave. The oracle rose to join them, but not before leaving a final message.
“In all that you do, listen to the inner workings of you. The dogs are near, more than we expected.” The older man bowed before the king and strolled out of the room of meeting.
It was a short time after his exit, which his mother walked in with a tall stranger who reminded him of the man he hated most. Without knowing who this man was, Chiemelie began to resent him. But he quickly shook it off and reminded himself that the stranger only resembled Ikemba and wasn’t his exact representation.
“My King,” his mother called sweetly.
“Mother…” Chiemelie dragged lazily from the throne.
Chinedum bowed even though he hated doing it. This was the first time that he was coming face to face with the man who intended to kill his cousin. Chiemelie had innocent features. His eyes were clear and calm; no mischief could be read there. Obviously, he was a charmer, so many would want to be close to him without knowing the evil branch that sprouted in his heart.
“This man here from Izi, saved your sister and the moon virgin from some bandits. He must be rewarded for his kind acts before continuing his journey back home.” The Queen then went into details about everything that had happened.
Though Chiemelie was impressed with the story, he was careful not to show it. There was something about this man that unsettled him. It kept him wondering and at unrest. Was he evil?
“Does the man who saved my sister have a name?”
“I am Ezechi, the son of Izu of Izi. I am a traveler. I was on my way when I heard the maidens calling for help.”
“Ezechi, son of Izu from Izi…” Chiemelie repeated the words.
“Yes, my King,” Chinedum bowed. If he knew the King doubted him, he was careful to hide his emotions.
“You are welcome to stay in my palace as long as you want. But you must pledge allegiance to me because I will be the greatest king in no time. Once I conquer Ezeudo, Izi will swear allegiance to me. I will need an insider then…”
Chinedum wasn’t given any time to think. Chiemelie raised the garment he wore and pushed out his legs. Chinedum understood what this meant. He knew he had to kiss the feet or he would get into trouble.
“Kiss the feet and take notice of the dagger for he plans to change it! He doesn’t trust you!” A still voice whispered in Chinedum’s mind. Unknown to him, he was being watched by Ikemba’s spirit. They were all being watched but they were oblivious of the other presence.
Chinedum clenched his jaw and marched towards the throne. He ran his eyes over the dagger and took note of the three golden stripes at the handle. He fell to his knees and dropped his lips upon the King’s feet.
To be continued…